Category Archives: Rescue

Help Lily this Christmas

I knew the place well. As a child I played there. Bumbling around like all small kids do, inventing games,or just exploring the back gardens and alleyways. Finding dead cats and kittens was a common occurrence. Usually the adult cats would be found in hedges where they had crawled into to die. The kittens would be found in bags, dumped in the nearby river. Cats were more numerous ‘back then’. They were a largely despised species, victims of religious superstition and good old indifference. Fit only to act as pest controllers but never to be fed or cared for. The endless litters of kittens usually met with the same fate. Taken from their mothers before their eyes opened, placed in a strong paper bag, string tied around the top, and hurled into the river. As kids, hunting Minnows in the water, we would come across the partially decomposed little corpses, still entombed in their rotting bags. I suppose, in people’s minds, cats and kittens, were as common as the air and as cheap.

12 11 25 LilyMaggie took the call. A man feeding a colony of ferals spotted a new cat hiding in nearby bushes. The cat wouldn’t come out and appeared fearful of both him and the other cats. The man couldn’t be sure but it appeared to him that the cat had something wrong with one of its legs. An injury of some sort. A plan was concocted and eventually the little cat was coaxed out of hiding and brought to the vet for an assessment. The ‘injured’ leg was, in fact, an amputation. The front, right side, leg, had been surgically removed at some stage leaving an awkward looking stump. The cat looked reasonably well fed and was friendly. Obviously the animal had been cared for by somebody. The initial assessment was of a stray that had wandered from her home and had gotten lost. Upon closer examination the little female cat was found to have the most appalling case of infected, ear polyps, the vet had ever seen. Polyps are lumps that grow in the inner ear canals of felines, especially older cats, and this poor mite had them in spades. The polyps had become infected and were agonising for the little female cat as she constantly tore at them with her claws. Every now and then she would vigorously shake her head from side to side and a spray of blood and pus would shoot out. Maggie named the cat, ‘Lily’ and we brought her home for temporary sanctuary until her owners could be located.

Lily was installed in two, very large, dog cages, on our kitchen table. We had nowhere else to put her. We made Lily as comfortable as possible in the cages. She was given a cardboard box, lined with soft, warm, vet bed, to sleep in, within the cages. This gave her a place of refuge away from the attentions of our own nosey cats. Lily retired into her box and remained there, day and night. Within 24 hours, The walls and roof, of Lily’s box were coated in a spray of blood and pus from her constant head shaking. We made efforts to locate Lily’s owners. The posts went up on CCN and Munster Lost and Found. No response. It was a very busy time for us. We were dealing with a case of a feral colony that was suffering the effects of malnutrition. We were preoccupied with this and not able to give Lily the attention she needed. When, one evening, we finally got the chance to sit down with Lily and have a good look at her, we immediately noticed the telltale indentations around her neck. Lily had worn a collar for a long time.

We examined her ears. We looked at her general demeanour. We saw how she hid away from everything and everyone. A brief discussion ensued and the conclusion was unanimous. Lily appeared to have been dumped because her carers grew tired of the veterinary cost of looking after her and treating her infected ears. We needed to deal with Lily’s ears. The infected polyps were causing her pain and discomfort. The constant pain from her ears, coupled with the amputated front leg, was inhibiting her from integrating into any household, let alone one as full of cats as ours. Our own vets felt unable to deal with the surgery required to fix the problem so we called upon the skills of Sinead Falvey, down in Cloyne veterinary practice, to assist. Sinead examined Lily thoroughly. We stood in Sinead’s surgery and watched as the vet’s skilful and sensitive fingers felt all over Lily’s little body. Sinead didn’t miss a thing. Lily’s ears were examined and a solution offered. Sinead would operate to remove the polyps. This would involve removing part of the ear canal as well. The operation was carried out and the polyps were removed. Behind the polyps in one of Lily’s ears was an unusual mass. Sinead Thinks this mass might be cancerous. The polyps have been there a long time. The mass has had the time to grow inwards towards Lily’s skull. Sinead took a biopsy and has sent it off to the lab. It will take about a week to get the results back.

P1180236 webSo we wait. This weekend, Lily will return home to us. She will be placed in her box within her cage. We will feed and care for her as if she was our own cat. Next week word will come back from the lab. It will be either, Benign, or, Malignant. If it is the latter, Lily will, yet again, make the journey from west cork all the ways down to Cloyne. And in Sinead’s surgery, Lily will drift off to sleep; never to wake up again to a world where a 12 year old cat, once accustomed to a home and care, was set adrift to fend for herself, partially crippled and in pain, lost, frightened, and bewildered, wondering what her ‘crime’ was, and desperately trying to make sense of it all. A little tabby too afraid to to push her way into a feral feeder even though she was starving. And this is Christmas, for God’s sake. Where was the love and fellowship for Lily when she most needed it?
I had thought that times had changed. I had believed that people no longer drowned kittens or treated cats like rubbish, fit only to be thrown out when there usefulness was over. I had hoped people had grown more sensitive to the suffering of another species. I had hoped in vain.

2014 has been a particularly rough year. We had hoped to end it with a good luck story. But Lily happened. Sometimes all we can do is reach out that final hand to stop the suffering of a wounded cat or kitten. We want them all to live. We want people to understand that cats feel the same things we do. Hurt, pain, abandonment, are emotions common to humans and cats. What does Lily feel today as she lies in her bed in Sinead’s surgery? There is the obvious discomfort from the operation but hopefully there is also the relief from the removal of the infected polyps. Lily is on pain relief medication. Sinead will see to it that Lily is as comfortable as possible. But what of Lily’s internal emotions? Can she make sense of the past few weeks. Lily had a home where she was comfortable. Those that cared for her cared enough to amputate a badly damaged limb. She had been fed and cosseted. Someone loved her once. But that all ended and Lily was abandoned. How does Lily process that? Now, put yourself in Lily’s mind. How would you feel if those you loved and trusted took you from your home one night to a strange place, put you on the ground, and drove away. There, in the dark and the biting cold, unable to properly move because you lost your front limb, and in agony from a terrible infection in both your ears, bewildered, confused, and alone, you must begin the fight for survival with all the odds stacked against you.

Please help Lily this Christmas time. The Cost of Lilly operation to take her pain away is over €300. Please help us to raise the money by donating on the links below.

Thanks, Jim 

Donate here.  Every donation will help.

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Hello? I’ve Rescued a Kitten…

“Hello? I’ve rescued a kitten…”

We usually dread these calls as they end by asking us to take in the kitten as they cannot keep it in for a reason or another (kids, work, dog, cats, and so on). Since we are not a rescue and that most rescues are full, there is usually very little we can do.
P1150874 webBut this time, we were wrong! We were talking to a real rescuer, someone willing to take responsibility and to do what was best for the kitten. All she wanted was some advice. Well, when people are willing to make an effort, we are even more eager to help them. We explained the importance of neutering before rehoming, of doing a homecheck, of asking for an adoption donation to make the adopter responsible and so on, and offered to help with these as best as we could and to provide some supplies too.

P1150871 webTwo days later, we were picking up the kitten to have him neutered and microchipped. To our surprise, the little kitten was in the living room, when the house dog had been confined to the yard! We brought back the kitten after recovery, with a few goodies that she could give to the adopter. He has since been adopted by a nice family, whom the rescuer is confident will look after him well.

If there were more people like this lady, Ireland would definitely be a better place for cats….

If you too have rescued a kitten, please visit our private rehoming page for tips and to advertise.

Miss Marple, the Old Lady Surrounded by Mystery

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Last Tuesday, we received a call about a sick cat in Midleton. She was very thin and dehydrated. We brought her to Sinead at the Cloyne Veterinary Clinic and an examination revealed that she was already neutered and very old. Ads were posted on the internet, posters were placed, leaflets were distributed, and Miss Marple, as I named her because she was an old lady surrounded by so much mystery, took up residence in my study.

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Although the caller thought the cat had been dumped, I was convinced someone was looking for her and decided to keep looking….
Well, Miss Marple’s real name is in fact Lucky (very appropriate) and she is 19 years old. She had been missing for a month and her owners thought she had gone away to die, until today, when their son saw one of my posters. Twenty minutes later, the tears were rolling and Lucky was in the arms of her mammy While in our care, Lucky was microchipped, so if she ever goes missing again, she can be quickly reunited with her family.

Moral of the story? Don’t give up looking for your missing cat and never assume too much when you have found a cat. So many cats are not reunited with their owners because people assume they have been dumped…

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Ike & Tina

We stood in the old barn in a state of shock. Cats. More cats. And yet more cats and kittens, everywhere. The farmer had assured us he had two white cats. We counted eight while standing there in the middle of this huge colony. At the rear of the barn was a wall of giant, circular, hay bales. Climbing down this vertical wall of hay was a black and white cat. As he descended we could see heads sticking out of gaps in the bales. There was adults and yet more kittens hiding in there. This wasn’t a colony but a megacity of cats and kittens.

It was the first TNR for Community Cats Network in West Cork. We possessed the grand total of one, spring operated, trap, and a collection of kitten and Queen cages in which to hold captured cats. This job was going to require considerably more equipment than we possessed. It was the sheer number of cats and kittens that shocked us. Every evening when milking was over the farmer carried two pails of milk down from the milking shed and poured the warm,frothy liquid, into a pair of giant tins. Then he threw a couple of handfuls of cat kibble into a few bowls that lay scattered around the floor of the barn. The cats erupted from everywhere, anxious to get a share of the meager nourishment before their companions ate it all. The adults, unencumbered by young, were the first to reach the bowls. The nursing mothers who had made nests for themselves and their young in the hay were the next to reach the food. Finally, the younger kittens arrived, fighting amongst the melee of older cats to snatch a morsel for themselves.

It was the white mother that attracted my attention as she descended the wall of hay bales. In her mouth, swinging from side to side, was a tiny, white kitten, maybe six or seven days old. The mother was obviously frantic to reach the food before it was gone and quickly clambered down the bales and ran across the barn with the kitten still dangling from her mouth. As she approached the food she spotted us standing there and hesitated. She dropped her kitten into a nearby pile of hay and approached the food on the side away from us. When the food was gone and it only took a few minutes for every last drop of milk, every morsel of kibble, to vanish, the mass of felines disappeared back into the shadows of the barn. Only one or two hopefuls still nosed around the empty bowls and dishes seeking an overlooked scrap of food. And there, atop the pile of hay, was the little white kitten. We went over to investigate.

It was obvious that the little one was is some serious trouble. The white fur around its eyes was yellow with discharge from cat flu. It appeared undernourished and weak as it lay there on the hay, mewling and crying for its mother who was nowhere to be seen. We had to make a decision and make it fast. There were many kittens in this colony. There were also many cats, a considerable number of which appeared to need some serious veterinary assistance. CCN was a new organization, so new that we hadn’t existed the previous week. We had, to put it euphemistically, limited resources. And that’s a nice way of saying ‘broke’. What to do?

We went for the kittens first; running around the barn, chasing the little furry bodies into piles of hay and then dragging the hissing, spitting, bundles of fury, back out, and placing them into our ragtag collection of cages. Within the space of a few minutes we had 10-11 little ones rounded up and on their way off the farm. In the car with us, wrapped up in a Puffa Jacket for warmth, was the little white kitten. Upon our arrival home we dispersed the kittens into our various cat houses where they immediately made themselves at home. The piled up bowls of cat food were a considerable help in settling the little guys down. The white kitten, however, was an entirely different problem. We quickly established the fact that she was a female and we called her ‘Murray’.  But Murray was too young for solid food and needed to be bottle fed. This in itself presented further problems. Bottle fed kittens are difficult to feed. Murray needed to be stimulated in order to urinate and defecate following each feed. She had to fed every three hours. Her weight needed to be recorded to ensure she was gaining weight. Her cat flu presented us with a quandary because she was too young for heavy medication. Any medication would only be a symptomatic treatment anyway as cat flu is viral. In short, we urgently needed a foster mother.

Help came from the most unlikely quarter. In the middle of the farm TNR, Maggie began another one in the back garden of a house in Macroom. Thus the beautiful but psychotic ‘Lily’ and her babies came into our lives. Maggie had just trapped Lily when ‘Little Miss Psycho’ decided that now was a good time to give birth. Lily promptly delivered 9 babies in the cage and had to be rushed straight to our specialist, ‘Mother and Baby’ compound, a large, plushly furnished house, enclosed within a huge cage that came complete with an outdoor, feline activity centre. Four of Lily’s brood died the first night. A litter of nine kittens was too much for her. But it was a silver linings moment for Murray whom we tentatively introduced to Lily. For a few, horror frozen, seconds, we watched as Murray nuzzled and grizzled her way along Lily’s flank, seeking a teet. Then Lily raised her head and pushed Murray into position. Murray latched on and began to suckle. Lily shot us a malevolent look and settled back down to feed her, now, six kittens.

That first summer,the summer CCN began,was notable for two things. The absolutely lousy weather and kittens. We had seventeen fosterers….and Lily. Lily was the most loving cat, or so her carer assured us. She was a pet. A doll. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. We would stand outside the Mother and Baby cage watching this paragon of love and gentleness hanging upside down from the cage roof, hissing ,snarling, and spitting at us and we would draw lots as to who would bring the food in to her. Lily hated us with a passion, but she was a superb mother to all her kittens, including the little orphan, Murray.

Lily’s own five kittens were named after ‘Soul’ singers from the 1960’s. Thus we had Ike (Turner), Muddy (Waters), etc. And Murray. When Lily’s brood had been weaned, we neutered Lily and returned her to her carer. Lily spat, hissed, snarled, bit the bars of her cage, and tried to swipe us on her way home. We carried Lily’s cage into her carer’s house on the end of a forty foot pole and deposited ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ on the kitchen floor. We then retreated to a safe position behind the dresser. Lily’s carer opened the cage and this sweet, doting, loving creature, emerged, and twined herself around her carer’s legs. We emerged from our safe zone to examine this miraculous transformation and were met with hissing, spitting, snarling, etc.

We began to rehome the ‘Soul’ family. Otis went. Martha went. Poor Muddy was killed on the road. And Ike and Murray went to live in Cork city with Sarah. CCN moved on. More TNR’s were conducted. We moved along through various farms in West Cork and began to experience cases of cruelty and neglect. There were many cats and kittens to deal with. Each TNR made different demands on us. The workload grew exponentially as CCN became more professional in its approach. The human cost of dealing with sick and dying cats, indifferent or unpleasant humans, began to take its toll on us. The optimism and idealism of the early days began to be replaced with a certain weariness. Trapping cats was just the beginning. Then came the transportation. The feeding. The aftercare. The systems of care. Getting bedding for the ferals. Providing  safe and hygienic bedding. Getting cat food. Kitty litter. Fundrasing. Keeping accurate records. Providing flea and worm treatments. Chasing people for payment. Getting ripped off by members of the public who equated  ‘Animal Charity’ with ‘Idiots’. Dealing with vets. Trying to provide the most humane and efficient system for dealing with feral cats. 16-18 hour days became the norm while we operated in all weather conditions. Riding the ferry home from Cape Clear in a force 10 gale while trying to keep our caged ferals dry and safe. Fighting between ourselves as we attempted to formulate a code of ethics, and policies and procedures, that placed the welfare of ferals first.

In the midst of all this we would occasionally see posts on Facebook from Sarah. She had renamed Murray as Tina and now was Mom to Ike and Tina, as well as her family of neutered ferals. Sarah kept us updated as to the progress of her cats. When they were sick. When Ike was tormenting Tina. When the two cats were stretched out luxuriously on chairs in front of the fire. The FB posts were little vignettes of cared for, cats lives. Ike and Tina were living the good life. Sarah is a compassionate and responsible cat carer. It is inconceivable for Sarah to be anything else but kind and caring.

We TNR’d a farm down in west cork once upon a time. It was a little hill farm tucked away up a Boreen, away from public gaze. What we immediately noticed upon our arrival was a little, Ginger and White, Kitten, crouched by his mother’s side ,both eyes eaten out by untreated cat flu. The little kitten was slowly starving to death as he was both blind and unable to smell his food due to the build-up of muscus in his nasal passages. He was the first of ten such kittens we collected that night. We brought the kittens home and placed them in two hospital cages. We placed food bowls in front of each kitten and then positioned each kitten in front of the bowls. The kittens could neither see nor smell the food. The little creatures ravished the food and when they finished eating, they began to purr and groom one another. The following morning we took the ten kittens into the vet and held each one as the vet euthanized them.

So you see, Sarah. Those little posts about Ike and Tina are soul food for us. They reassure us that there are humans who care enough to reach out to change lives and make the world a better place. That there are human beings who prove that mankind is not all doomed by indifference and selfishness.  We will leave you with the old Jewish proverb:

‘Save a life and you save the world entire’

Click the link to view the kittens.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvkvdXnS4Cc     (Ike is scratching one)

The new-borns

It was pure chance that I was sitting in front of my computer when I saw the appeal for a nursing queen on Facebook.  I rang Tracy to get more information.  Her neighbour’s spayed cat had brought three tiny kittens to her home.  Apparently, she is in the habit of “robbing” kittens, although she had never brought back such young kittens before.  Tracy and the neighbour tried to locate the mother, but could not find her anywhere.  She thought that the kittens were one week old and they had been on their own since that morning; it was around 4.30pm.

A bunch of new-born kittens

I offered to help to try to find a nursing mum and started texting everyone I could think of.  The clock was ticking and I knew the kittens wouldn’t make it if they weren’t fed soon, so I grabbed my bag with the kitten fomula and kitten bottle and jumped into my car, thinking that something could be sorted out later.

The umbilical cord usually falls off between the 1st and fourth day.

When I arrived there, I found three tiny kittens, not even a day old – they still had their umbilical cords attached.  They looked really poorly in their pet carrier, so I tried to feed them immediately, but one barely ate anything.  The only time I had fed a new born kitten was when we rescued Spica and I didn’t really feel like facing this task on my own, so I headed to Maggie and Jim’s.

One of the babies having his 2nd bottle.

Bottle-feeding kittens is tiring, physically and nervously.  You need to make sure that they eat enough, that they are in an environment at the right temperature – since they cannot control their body heat themselves, you need to make them go to the toilet by stimulating them, etc.  Basically, you need to do everything a queen would do, knowing that you are not a cat and cannot provide the same comfort as a mother and that a kitten might die very quickly for no apparent reason.  But what else can you do?  These little lives are there, needing help and you certainly cannot let them die without even giving them a chance.  All you can do is your best…

Maggie helping out the little smallie.

While at Maggie’s, we got a fright as the smallest one nearly stopped breathing, but Maggie helped him and he regained a bit of energy.  After a couple of feeds, I felt more comfortable going home with the kittens.  We had also been in touch with Sara, who told us that she was in the process of trapping a nursing mum and her kittens and we had planned to try to introduce the kittens to her if Sara was successful.  Should that fail, we had arranged to do shifts, so that I would have the kittens during the week and Maggie at the weekends, in order to make things easier on everyone.

The little fatty

How difficult were those first night feeds!  Yet, what pleasure did I get from hearing the little one giving his first screetch!  I must admit that I was exhausted after two nights.  Feeding three new-borns on your own is exhausting, but it was also a satisfying feeling to see them eat and “making it!”. 

The little smallie

Some will say that only experienced people can bottle-feed new-borns.  Experience will help, but we all need to start somewhere, and sometimes, you just don’t have the choice…  It takes dedication, patience, time, common-sense and a lot of love.  As with a human baby, the little ones become your priority; you must give up on nearly everything else and give them all your attention.

The crawler and screetcher

Nowadays, we also have the help of the internet, and I would recommend to visit the following websites should you ever find yourself in the same situation: FAB Cats has a very good and detailed page on hand-rearing kittens; The Cat Practice in Michigan has a dowloadable guide covering all the major aspects of hand-rearing kittens;  Feral Cat Coalition also has a page that is worth viewing and  kitten rescue offers a simplified feeding guide with some good tips.

Three happily fed kittens

Meet Spica, born 6th of April 2012

It's a sign! Both Maggie and I have a weakness for tabbies...

Spica holds a special place as s/he is the very first kitten officially rescued by Community Cats Network.  Spica came into our care as a new born kitten and her/his umbilical cord was still attached.  S/he was born in a garden in Ballincollig, but the mum got a fright as the lady of the house opened the coal bunker, where she was hiding with her kittens.  She moved them to another location, but seemed to have forgotten one behind.  The lady waited, but as the mum didn’t come back, she took the last kitten in. 

Spica's umbilical cord

As usual, these things happen at night and during the weekend.  Thankfully, we had some kitten formula in stock and drove over to Ballincollig to feed this tiny kitten.  As the lady’s lifestyle wouldn’t have enabled her to keep feeding the kitten, we took her/him with us. 

Meet Spica!

As we were driving back, we were trying to think of a name for this little one.  We wanted a name that would evoke a new beginning, a new life, and would be suitable for both a male or a female, but nothing nice could come to mind.  The Easter moon was full and Maggie was admiring Jupiter and the bright star next to it.  The bright star in question is called Spica and it became the name of Community Cats’ first kitten.

Camilla bottle-feeding Spica

We had only bottle-fed few-week old kittens, but sometimes you have no other choice but to learn and the internet now provides a great source of information.  However, neither Maggie nor I would have the time to look after such a young kitten for more than a couple of days and we had to find a fosterer.  Thus, the following day, we placed Spica in the care of Camilla, who had offered to help us whenever we’d need.  As she had looked after a three-week old kitten before, she was already familiar with a few things and Maggie explained the rest to her, giving her some instuctions and a chart, where the feeding times and the weight could be recorded. 

Tiny baby, but perfect weight for a new born 🙂

A kitten was born, a life was saved and a new group was born.

Spica is two weeks old and already a character!

Spica is doing really well.  S/he is putting on weight and behaving normally.  I went to visit her last week as s/he turned two weeks old and had the pleasure to feed her/him.  She is adorable.  So far, so good and we hope that Spica will grow up into a strong and healthy kitten thanks to the good care of Camilla and Alan, who are doing a fantastic job!

Sleep well Spica!

And here are a couple of videos for your enjoyment!